Summer Britcher at the start of the second heat of competition in Altenberg, Germany during the January 12, 2020 World Cup.
ALTENBERG, Germany – USA Luge’s best weekend result in Altenberg came Sunday afternoon when they took sixth place in the second team relay of the season. The quartet of singles racers Summer Britcher and Tucker West, with the doubles team of Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman, puts the U.S. in seventh place in the overall team relay rankings. In an exciting race, the winning Russian foursome set a track record in defeating Germany by just 0.013 of a second.
The day presented noticeably different conditions from the training sessions as the weather broke unusually clear and cooler in the Ore Mountains, making the ice surface much faster.
“Considering ice conditions during training, it was difficult for everybody,” said American head coach Bill Tavares. “The track sped up anywhere from one and a half to two and a half seconds from the last training run to the race runs. It was one of those things where consistency was a big part of it, and those that were able to have a consistent, okay run, were better than a fast run and a not consistent run.”
The morning race saw Britcher, of Glen Rock, Pa., rally from 13th place in the second leg to finish eighth. World Cup rookie Ashley Farquharson, of Park City, Utah, was 23rd. They were the only Americans to post two-heat results.
Emily Sweeney, of Lake Placid, 21st after the opening leg, did not start the second run due to a neck issue but received World Cup points. Brittney Arndt, also of Park City, did not qualify in the Nations Cup. Arndt appeared to be headed for a top three qualifying result on Friday, but Altenberg proves that an athlete can be victimized anywhere on the track. It occurred to Arndt late in her run.
“Some of the good things we took out of the week,” continued Tavares, “Tucker’s reaction is the fastest in the world, Summer is coming along and the two young girls (Farquharson, Arndt) continue learning.”
Not only are the Russians coming, but all signs indicate that they are staying. Their inroads on the medal stand have been noteworthy for some time, and with significant depth in all disciplines, they are another force in the sport.
Ivanova, the fearless Semen Pavlichenko, and the doubles sled of Aleksandr Denisev and Vladisl Antonov collaborated for a track record time of 2 minutes, 22.517 seconds. But they were not without some issues. Like many, Ivanova struggled with a clean line out of curve nine, but her teammates covered her. Similarly, the Germans Felix Loch and doubles Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken could say the same. Third place went to Italy in 2:22.620.
The American team recorded 2:23.132. After Britcher put the U.S. in fourth place, West, of Ridgefield, Conn., had the fastest reaction time, while Mazdzer and Terdiman, slowed at the start by Mazdzer’s upper body injuries this season, were fifth on the changeover when normally they would be at the top. Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., and Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., with a total of five Olympic team berths between them, continue to work with a new sled with their eyes on Beijing. However, they are also traveling with last year’s equipment.
After two of six team relays, Italy stands atop the World Cup list with 170 points, followed by Germany at 155 and Russia with 146. USA Luge’s seventh place total is 100. The third team relay of the year takes place next Sunday in Lillehammer.
Julia Taubitz of Germany won her third Viessmann World Cup race of the season, and closed to within two points of tour leader Tatyana Ivanova. The Russian, who also has three gold medals to date, was second Sunday morning to retain her slim advantage after six of 12 events. Ivanova also took the 2012 World Championship silver medal on this course.
Taubitz had the two fastest times down the demanding track, whose history dates back to the early 1980s and was built under high level secrecy. Some might even say that a few of those nuances remain under cover today, although Taubitz, now with five World Cup victories, has received ample intel on this, her home course. Her two trips totaled 1:44.264, with Ivanova 0.17 of a second slower. Italian Andrea Voetter, fifth at the intermission, raced the third best final heat and improved to the bronze medal in 1:44.647. After teammate Sandra Robatscher won last year’s snow-abbreviated event, Voetter claimed her first career World Cup medal. Afterward, Ivanova and Voetter also mentioned the uncertainty of training in slower conditions and racing on much faster ice.
Ivanova has 482 overall World Cup points to Taubitz’s 480. Another Russian, Victoriia Demchenko, sixth on the day, improved to third place overall with 332 points. She displaced Sweeney who is fourth overall with 315. Britcher remains in sixth with 285 despite not qualifying for the Whistler sprint race last month and losing the opportunity to collect the additional points.
Britcher, a two-time U.S. Olympian, was clocked in 1:44.849. Farquharson’s inaugural World Cup season continues in fine fashion as she sits in 13th place in the World Cup rankings, while Arndt is 23rd. The former was timed in 1:46.230.
Two television shows remain from the Altenberg World Cup races. The first is on Olympic Channel on Jan. 12 with women’s singles at 2 PM ET. NBC Sports Network will also air women’s singles on Jan. 13 at 11 PM ET.
The World Cup tour now moves on to Lillehammer, Norway for singles, doubles and a team relay Jan. 18-19 on the 1994 Olympic track.